#LION17

Schedule of sessions & events

Keeping it real: Local news results

Check out the complete schedule of session for the 2017 LION Summit — we're planning more than 3 dozen presentations and conversations over 3 days, with even more speakers and discussion leaders!

  • Thursday, Oct. 26, registration will open at 1 p.m., with afternoon "boot camp" workshops aimed at new publishers, idea-stage entrepreneurs and established publishers looking to dig into their operations, plus an evening reception and networking event.
  • Friday, Oct. 27, sessions will run all day, roughly 9 a.m. - 6 p.m., followed by an evening gathering with light food and drinks.
  • Saturday, Oct. 28, sessions will again run all day, roughly 9:30 a.m. - 6:30 p.m., with "out on the town" socializing to follow.
  • Breakfast and lunch will be provided both Friday and Saturday. Light dinner and drinks will be provided at the Thursday and Friday evening receptions.

New to the schedule this year are the boot camp sessions on Thursday. We'll hold separate tracks, with information named at startup publishers and sessions for experienced operators. There is no additional charge to attend the boot camp.

The summit will feature presentations, panel discussions and in-depth breakout sessions on advertising sales, sponsored content, membership programs, email newsletters, podcasting, video, tech platforms, expansion and scale, nonprofit vs. for-profit business models, legal concerns, FOIA, solutions journalism, local sports and database reporting.

In addition to three days of networking and sessions led by industry experts, your registration includes light breakfast and a catered lunch on Friday and Saturday, coffee and snacks, and appetizers/light dinner and drinks at the Thursday and Friday evening receptions.

Schedule

Thursday, Oct. 26 »

Registration

1 — 7 p.m., Lobby

Get signed in, grab a cup of coffee and chat. Bootcamp and advanced workshops begin at 2 p.m. Thursday, and run through the afternoon.

Bootcamp workshop: Building a business plan

2 — 2:45 p.m., Breakout A

We'll kick off the 2017 LION Summit with a "from the beginning" view of the process of launching a local independent online news organization. How do you decide what kind of operation to be, and choose between a for-profit or nonprofit model? We'll also go over the basics of how to write a business plan for local news, and the questions you'll want to ask yourself before taking the plunge. This session is geared toward new publishers and idea-stage local news entrepreneurs, but veteran publishers are welcome, too.

Advanced track: Anatomy of a startup

2 — 2:45 p.m., Breakout B

A "from the ground up" start-up story diving into business swim lanes for revenue, marketing, engagement and community impact. Eleanor Cippel, a repeat LION Summit speaker who has led us in advertising sales training in the past, will share tactical examples of how she established revenue channels for her new business - Great Life Real Estate - both short term and long term, where she focuses, the 90-day sprint strategy that drives her business forward, her approach to nurturing and cultivating clients and how she is make hiring and resource decisions based on her goals and execution strategies.

Bootcamp workshop: Local advertising basics

3 — 3:45 p.m., Breakout A

From setting rates, to creating marketing materials, to hiring sales reps, to learning how to ask people for money, to identifying potential customers and keeping track of them, we'll talk about how to build local advertising sales from the ground up. This session is geared toward new publishers and idea-stage local news entrepreneurs, but veteran publishers are welcome, too.

Advanced track: Reaching millennials

3 — 3:45 p.m., Breakout B

The staff of local independent online news site Richland Source in Ohio will talk about how they've reached younger readers and partnered with the community by turning their newsroom into a live music venue, tackling solutions journalism projects, and more.

Bootcamp workshop - Audience development

4 — 4:45 p.m., Breakout A

  • Speaker/session leader
  • Ned Berke | City University of New York

How do you identify a potential audience for your news organization, and make sure those potential readers find your journalism? We'll talk about how audience development fits into your business plan and revenue strategies, and also how it can drive news coverage. This session will include a look at metrics -- what should you be measuring beyond page views and unique visitors -- and also explore the role of big social platforms and mobile.

Advanced track: Website design critiques

4 — 4:45 p.m., Breakout B

Julia Smith and Travis Smith (no relation), of the Institute for Nonprofit News' INN Labs and Hop Studios, respectively, will use examples of LION member sites (whose publishers volunteered in advance!) to talk about news website design problems and best practices.

Advanced track: Native advertising & sponsored content

4 — 4:45 p.m., Breakout C

LION members have seen a huge shift in revenue from banner ads to native advertising and sponsored content in recent years. Three veteran local independent online news publishers will talk about how they sell sponsored content, how they produce it, how they charge for it, and how they identify it to readers.

Bootcamp workshop - Tech stack for indie publishing

5 — 5:45 p.m., Breakout A

Our world of "software as a service" has made the technological barrier of entry lower than ever for local independent online news publishers. We'll discuss the basic tech tools and services you'll need to publish and run your business, what you can probably do without, and how much you can expect to pay, including discussion of website platform/content management systems, hosting, customer-relation management software, bookkeeping software, and website plugins such as event calendars and story comment engines. Come with your questions!

Advanced track: Honing your pitch: How to ask for money

5 — 5:45 p.m., Breakout B

Veteran sales and fundraising leaders offer their advice on making the ask for an advertising contract or donation to support your local news organization. How do you get comfortable, and good at, asking people for money, and getting them to say "yes?"

Advanced track: Covering immigration in the age of Trump

5 — 5:45 p.m., Breakout C

How can local news sites accurately and proportionately cover the questions swirling around the treatment of immigrants and immigration policy under the Trump administration, from deportation policy to DACA, especially as distrust of all mainstream institutions, including the media, grows among immigrant communities.

Opening reception

6 — 8:30 p.m., Lobby

Have a drink and a bite to eat, catch up with old friends and meet new ones. Mix and mingle with your fellow publishers while you enjoy a selection of beer, wine and soft drinks, along with appetizer/light dinner items. The menu will include vegetarian and vegan selections.

Welcoming remarks

6:15 — 6:30 p.m., Lobby

A quick rundown of what to expect from the LION Summit — and what's expected of you: an engaged exchanged of experiences, a desire to learn new business and reporting strategies, and becoming even more connected with your fellow local news entrepreneurs. Also, we'll hear a few brief words from the underwriters who allow us to organize such a great gathering, including sponsors such as Ezoic, Broadstreet Ads, Walsh Creative and TownNews.com, as well as our hosts, Columbia College Chicago.

Beyond buzzwords: Startup challenges & growing healthy businesses

7:30 — 8:30 p.m., Lobby

Over a few drinks, a group discussion of what attendees are looking to learn. In a reprise of our annual "getting to know you" discussion: beyond repeating the usual patter about the future of news, let's dig into the challenges and rewards of running a local news operation. Let's talk startup hurdles and the paths to building a healthy business while doing great work.

Be prepared with "Three Quick Words" about what you hope to share and learn at the conference.

One of the foundations of the LION summit is that "Everybody talks." Researchers at MIT and Carnegie Mellon have demonstrated that the collective intelligence of a group increases if everyone speaks about a topic. We're all at the conference to hear from experts and entrepreneurs, but each of us has insight and experience that is valuable for the discussion. While the increasing size of our conference makes it more difficult to expound at length during the introductions, a quick statement of your name, site/organization and three words about why you're joining us will help other attendees know who you are, and help lay out the priorities for our conversations during the summit.

Small group dinners

8:30 — 11:59 p.m., Downtown Chicago

Out and about in downtown Chicago. Hang out with old friends, and be sure to meet new ones and invite them along. But don't stay out too late. We'll get started promptly at 9 a.m. on Friday — with breakfast and coffee available before that ; )

Friday, Oct. 27 »

Friday breakfast

8 — 9 a.m., Lobby

Have a cup of joe on us! We'll serve coffee and light breakfast items. Grab a bagel and shake off the cobwebs, and share a few war stories with fellow LIONs.

Welcome

9 — 9:10 a.m., Film Row Cinema

Let's get the show on the road.

40 ideas in 40 minutes

9:10 — 9:50 a.m., Film Row Cinema

A group discussion of lessons learned over the past year: "My best story/My best business move." Attendees will share their quick tips about what's worked and what hasn't — and vote on the best suggestions. The winner will receive a $100 gift card. Come ready to run down your best revenue, reporting, engagement and tech tactics.

Lightning talks: Facebook & local news, Pushing mobile, and the state of LION

10:10 — 11:10 a.m., Film Row Cinema

Lightning talks are a series of quick, focused presentations — roughly seven minutes long, each followed by seven minutes of open Q&A on the topic.

Dorrine Mendoza and Josh Mabry of Facebook will talk about Facebook's efforts to work with local news publishers and try to dispel the mystery of the algorithm that controls the platform's news feeds.

Reynolds Journalism Institute fellow Christopher Guess will demo "Push," an open-source mobile app he's designed for small news organizations.

Dylan Smith, publisher of TucsonSentinel.com and chairman of the LION board of directors, will talk about the organization's growth and future plans. 

Friday morning coffee break

11:10 — 11:30 a.m., Lobby

Have a cup of coffee and chat with speakers and colleagues.

Foundation support for local journalism

11:30 a.m. — 12:15 p.m., Film Row Cinema

What are the major foundations that support journalism doing to strengthen the local news ecosystem? What do they need or want to see from local publishers? Has their approach or priorities changed in this era of "fake news" and mistrust in the media? A panel discussion with Karen Rundlet of the Knight Foundation, Teresa Gorman of the Democracy Fund, and Molly de Aguiar of the News Integrity Initiative, moderated by Jan Schaffer of J Lab.

Friday lunch

12:15 — 1:30 p.m., Lobby

Catered lunch in the lobby.

Defamation 101: How to reduce your chances of being sued

1:30 — 2 p.m., Film Row Cinema

Attorney Jeffrey Kosseff will provide a primer on defamation law, and the common mistakes that are likely to lead to lawsuits, including practical tips to reduce the likelihood that you will face a successful defamation suit.

Lightning talks: Growth & scale, Citizen journalists, Class problems, Journalists & sales

2:15 — 3:20 p.m., Film Row Cinema

Lightning talks are a series of quick, focused presentations — roughly seven minutes long, each followed by seven minutes of open Q&A on the topic.

Jim Brady of Spirited Media will talk about growing from Billy Penn in Philadelphia to a company that includes The Incline in Pittsburgh and Denverite in Colorado, and what he's doing to stay "authentically local" as he scales the business.

Publisher Alice Dreger will talk about how the Michigan nonprofit enlisted an army of citizen journalists in local coverage.

John S. Knight fellow Heather Bryant will talk about the gap between many journalists' socioeconomic background and experience and the readers they're not relating to.

Ebony Reed of the Reynolds Journalism Institute on why, rather than be intimidated, journalists should feel uniquely suited to selling advertising.

Friday afternoon coffee break

3:20 — 3:45 p.m., Lobby

Have a cup of coffee and chat with speakers and colleagues.

Breakout: Facebook's partnership with LION

3:45 — 4:30 p.m., Breakout A

Learn more about the special partnership that Facebook has with LION and the Institute for Nonprofit News, and what the publishers of three local independent online news sites chosen as pilot sites for the project have learned so far.

Breakout: Fundraising for local nonprofit news

3:45 — 4:30 p.m., Breakout B

Two veteran nonprofit local news publishers will talk about how to approach and work with community and national foundations, cultivating major individual donors, and how to manage a successful "annual appeal" with smaller donors. This session will be geared toward new nonprofit publishers and those thinking of launching a nonprofit news organization, but all are welcome.

Breakout: Instagram, Snapchat and staying up on new tools

3:45 — 4:30 p.m., Breakout C

  • Speaker/session leader
  • P. Kim Bui | NowThis News

With small newsrooms and precious time, we have to pick and choose between what to tackle and what to set aside. This is a proposal for constant experimentation and how trial and error can help the culture of your newsroom as well as the health of your budget. We can no longer ignore the importance of Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and other platforms, but how do you prioritize and how do you stand out without selling your soul?

An editor who has moved from large newsroom to small, legacy to startup, outlines the challenges and opportunities in experimentation on social and digital platforms.

Breakout: Monetizing email newsletters

3:45 — 4:30 p.m., Breakout D

With all the focus on display ads and competition from Social Media platforms this easy to setup and low maintenance revenue channel is often underutilized. David Walsh provides a detailed overview of how to automate email newsletters with ads through RSS campaigns, using Google Analytics to determine optimal send times and understanding metrics.

Friday afternoon coffee break

4:30 — 4:50 p.m., Lobby

Have a cup of coffee and chat with speakers and colleagues.

Breakout: Crowdtangle

4:50 — 5:35 p.m., Breakout A

Facebook's Amber Burgess will walk you through Crowdtangle, a powerful analytics tool that Facebook is offering free to local news publishers.

Breakout: Collaborating with other news outlets

4:50 — 5:35 p.m., Breakout B

Insight from a year’s worth of research on how local news sites can benefit from partnerships with national organizations, and nonprofits and commercial can work together.

Breakout: Overcoming sales objections

4:50 — 5:35 p.m., Breakout C

A sales trainer and two veteran local independent online news publishers will talk about overcoming objections and making the pitch when selling advertising.

Breakout: Covering the opioid crisis

4:50 — 5:35 p.m., Breakout D

Three local independent online news publishers will share their experiences in covering the opioid epidemic and advice for moving beyond the headlines about death and crime. Tom Sofield of Levittown Now in Pennsylvania and Denise Lockwood from the Racine County Eye in Wisconsin will talk about its impact on their communities, and Rose Hoban will talk about opioid-related policy coverage at her site, North Carolina Health News.

Happy hour

5:30 — 6:30 p.m., Lobby

Have a drink from the hosted bar and discuss the day.

LION Publishers annual meeting

6 — 6:30 p.m., South Lobby

Executive Director Matt DeRienzo and LION's Board of Directors wil provide an update on our organization, and hear member feedback during an informal discussion.

Evening reception

6:30 — 8 p.m., Lobby

Have a light bite to eat and a drink or two, on us.

Message in a bottle: A spirited discussion

7 — 8 p.m., Lobby

A spirited discussion on the state of local news — led by a panel but open to all, this open discussion during our Friday night reception will prompt some food for thought while you nosh.

Hit the town

8 — 11:59 p.m., Downtown Chicago

Out and about in downtown Chicago. Hang out with old friends, and be sure to meet new ones and invite them along. Have dinner, check out a bar, go to a blues club. But don't stay out too late. We'll get started promptly at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, with breakfast and all-important coffee available with breakfast at 8 a.m.

Saturday, Oct. 28 »

Saturday breakfast

8 — 9:30 a.m., Lobby

Have a cup of joe on us! We'll serve coffee and light breakfast items. Grab a bagel and shake off the cobwebs, and share a few war stories with fellow LIONs.

Welcome

9:30 — 9:40 a.m., Film Row Cinema

Let's get the show on the road.

Panel: Local news in the big city

9:40 — 10:20 a.m., Film Row Cinema

The Daily Beast wrote recently about the near-total collapse of daily newspaper coverage of local news in New York City. Indie sites have done a phenomenal job covering big city neighborhoods, but monetization and sustainability have been elusive. We convene indie journalists and publishers from Chicago, LA and New York to discuss.

Lightning talks: Restoring trust, Tyler Loop, Advertising & user experience

10:30 — 11:25 a.m., Film Row Cinema

Lightning talks are a series of quick, focused presentations — roughly seven minutes long, each followed by seven minutes of open Q&A on the topic.

Tracie Powell, of All Digitocracy and a member of the LION Publishers Board of Directors, will speak on the crucial role that neighborhood-level local news coverage will play in restoring the credibility of journalism at a critical time for our country, and how it’s key to audience development for local independent online news sites.

Tasneem Raja of the Tyler Loop will discuss how journalists with national news backgrounds take an alt-weekly, data-savvy approach to local independent online news in an increasingly diverse Texas community.

Ezoic’s Gavin Bechtold will discuss the correlation between user experience and digital revenue. He will highlight just how these two elements inexorably tied. Gavin will show which metric and markers are indicative of good user experiences and how this increase visitor value to advertisers both directly and programmatically. Lastly, Gavin will finish with a real world case study of how this all works in the real world. 

Saturday morning coffee break

11:30 — 11:45 a.m., Lobby

Have a cup of coffee and chat with speakers and colleagues.

Quick talks: Membership, Digital trends in local news, State of small daily newspapers

11:45 a.m. — 12:20 p.m., Film Row Cinema

In a series of presentations and Q&A periods, these quick talks will provide concrete information on the state of local news — and tips on how to build your own membership program to grow your revenues.

Mary Walter-Brown of the News Revenue Hub will talk about its effort to develop membership programs as a major revenue stream at local news sites across the country, and shares examples of what has worked and what hasn’t.

Jesse Holcomb, formerly of the Pew Research Center and now a professor at Calvin College, will speak on "Digital trends in local news," distilling highlights from the latest research, and what it all means for community digital publishers. 

Damian Radcliffe will speak on the plight and future of small-market daily local newspapers, from newly published, and unpublished research, produced for the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University and the Agora Journalism Center in Portland, including a survey of 400 journalists primarily working at local newspapers.

Saturday lunch

1 — 2:15 p.m., Lobby

Catered lunch in the lobby.

Lightning talks: Better ad products, City Bureau, Report for America

2:15 — 3:05 p.m., Film Row Cinema

Lightning talks are a series of quick, focused presentations — roughly seven minutes long, each followed by seven minutes of open Q&A on the topic.

How Charlotte Agenda hit $1 million in revenue within 2 years of launch. Display advertising sucks and membership revenue is small. How the Charlotte Agenda uses its job board, annual print guide, Instagram and sponsorship model to generate $1.2 million in revenue with only a six person full-time staff.

A look at the unique approach that City Bureau is taking to community engagement and local news in Chicago.

Kevin Grant of the GroundTruth Project will talk about the launch of Report for America, a service-based initiative to revitalize journalism by placing reporting corps members in local newsrooms. 

Breakout: Building reader revenue through membership

3:20 — 3:55 p.m., Breakout A

Mary Walter-Brown of the News Revenue Hub will go in-depth and answer questions about building paid membership programs.

Breakout: Podcasting 101 for local news

3:20 — 4 p.m., Breakout B

Local journalism can harness the power of podcasting to expand its offerings and offer content that satisfies the varied information appetites of news consumers. Deciding if and how audio might fit into your outlet’s news model involves some prior planning, but the barriers to entry are super low.

Breakout: Google News Lab tools overview 1

3:20 — 4 p.m., Breakout C

Learn how to use Advanced Search, Google Scholar, Google Image Search and Google Trends.

Breakout: Enlisting students in local journalism

3:20 — 4 p.m., Breakout D

How some universities are filling gaps in local news with independent online news sites staffed by student journalists, and how Madison 365 in Wisconsin started its own "academy" to teach young people of color about journalism.

Breakout session - Unconference

3:20 — 4 p.m., South Lobby

  • Speaker/session leader
  • TBA

Got a burning issue that hasn't been addressed? Pitch an unconference session prior to lunch on Saturday — organizers will select topics for informal discussions on Saturday afternoon.

Breakout: Staying out of trouble

4:15 — 4:55 p.m., Breakout A

What does a local independent online news publisher need to know to protect herself from financial, technological and legal trouble? We'll talk about whether you need insurance and how much you can expect to pay, whether you should hire a bookkeeper, whether you should have employees, independent contractors and advertisers sign contracts, and how to find examples.

Breakout: Covering healthcare: From ACA to Flint water crisis

4:15 — 4:55 p.m., Breakout B

Jiquanda Johnson of Flint Beat will talk about how her local independent online news site is approaching the ongoing public health emergency over drinking water in Flint, Michigan. Rose Hoban of North Carolina Health News will offer advice to publishers seeking to localize coverage of efforts this year to repeal or amend the Affordable Care Act.

Breakout: Google News Lab tools overview 2

4:15 — 4:55 p.m., Breakout C

  • Speaker/session leader
  • Andy Boyle | Axios/Google News Lab

Learn how to use Google's geospatial tools, such as Google Maps, Fusion Tables, Google Earth, Street View, and more, as well as information on AMP and other tools.

Breakout: Paywalls 101

4:15 — 4:55 p.m., Breakout D

  • Speaker/session leader
  • Jay Senter | Shawnee Mission Post

Publisher Jay Senter talks about how the Shawnee Mission Post successfully implemented a paywall to help support local journalism in small-town Kansas, signing up more than 1,000 subscribers in three and a half months.

Breakout session - Unconference

4:15 — 4:55 p.m., South Lobby

  • Speaker/session leader
  • TBA

Got a burning issue that hasn't been addressed? Pitch an unconference session prior to lunch on Saturday — organizers will select topics for informal discussions on Saturday afternoon.

Saturday afternoon coffee break

4:55 — 5:15 p.m., Lobby

Have a cup of coffee and chat with speakers and colleagues.

Breakout: Expanding to multiple local sites

5:15 — 5:55 p.m., Breakout A

Three veteran local independent online news publishers will talk about their experiences expanding to launch or acquire additional local news sites, including lessons learned and the potential to scale back-end support over multiple operations.

Breakout: Solutions journalism

5:15 — 5:55 p.m., Breakout B

The Solutions Journalism Network and indie news site Richland Source talk about the concept and practice of solutions journalism applied to local news coverage.

Breakout: Fighting for data & making it work

5:15 — 5:55 p.m., Breakout C

  • Speaker/session leader
  • Andy Boyle | Axios/Google News Lab

An overview of how to fight for public records and data, as well as a wide variety of stories you can tell with it, for digital, print and broadcast.

Breakout: Monetizing local sports coverage

5:15 — 5:55 p.m., Breakout D

Steven Ludwig of BigR Media in Tennessee will talk about how his company built local sports vehicles and paired a marketing strategy to it.

Breakout session - Unconference

5:15 — 5:55 p.m., South Lobby

  • Speaker/session leader
  • TBA

Got a burning issue that hasn't been addressed? Pitch an unconference session prior to lunch on Saturday — organizers will select topics for informal discussions on Saturday afternoon.

Happy hour & closing: Lessons learned

6 — 7:15 p.m., South Lobby

Have a drink from the hosted bar or have a relaxing cup of coffee and discuss the day. What's the best tip you got this weekend? What project are you going to tackle when you get home? What's a great idea, but maybe not quite right for you? Let's have a group conversation.

Birds of a feather: Dinner in Chicago

8 — 11:59 p.m., Downtown Chicago

Out and about in downtown Chicago. Spend the evening with friends new and old, and keep the discussion going as you have fun in Chicago. Make dinner plans, catch some (Cubs!) baseball at a bar, stroll around the city — relax and enjoy, you made it through the conference!